Gallbladder removal surgery: how does recovery work?

When the gallbladder, responsible for storing bile, develops problems, the patient may be a candidate for surgery to remove it, a technique called cholecystectomy.

This recommendation is usually made for those who develop inflammation in the gallbladder , who have stones forming in the organ (gallstones) and also in cases of polyps and cancer.

There are two main techniques used to perform this surgery, the conventional and the laparoscopic. However, regardless of the surgical technique adopted by the doctor, it is essential to take some care in the postoperative period to ensure good tissue healing and complete patient recovery, and this is what we will talk about in this article.

Read on to understand how recovery works after gallbladder removal surgery.

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Surgical techniques for gallbladder removal

Before we talk about how to recover a patient who underwent gallbladder removal, it is interesting to understand the two main techniques we mentioned in the introduction.

The conventional surgery is one in which there is need to make a cut in the abdomen of the patient. This technique is more invasive. The cut is bigger, the pain and discomfort are bigger and, therefore, the recovery of the patient demands more time , in order to guarantee the good healing of the tissues.

The second technique is more advantageous for most patients because it is less invasive. It is the one performed by laparoscopy. In this case, only four small holes are made in the abdomen, through which the instruments are inserted and a camera, which guides the surgeon’s actions.

So there is a benefit not only aesthetic and self-esteem, but with smaller incisions the pain and discomfort are less and recovery is shorter. It is expected that on the same day, those who undergo laparoscopic cholecystectomy will be able to sit on the bed and walk without difficulty , drink fluids and eat a light meal. Most patients receive medication in the vein for a short period of time, switching to pills within a few hours. Depending on the time of the surgery, technical details of the disease and the complexity of the surgery in each case and other health conditions, it is generally expected that there will be a condition of discharge from the hospital home on the same day or the day after the operation.It is rarely necessary to stay in the ICU, unless there is a need for other health care generally not associated with the surgery itself.

Recovery after gallbladder removal 

As you have seen, recovery after gallbladder surgery occurs differently depending on the technique used. Below are the main aspects of the postoperative period that usually raise doubts in patients.

Possible annoyances

Right after the surgery, in the first 12 hours, the patient may experience pain in the abdomen or shoulder. This is due to an irritation in the nerve that passes through the abdomen and goes up to the neck. You may also feel sick or vomit, but medication is given to relieve these symptoms and maintain the patient’s comfort. Usually, these discomforts are short and transient, improving in the first 24-72 hours after surgery.

Hospital discharge

Anyone undergoing a surgical procedure wants to be discharged as soon as possible, which happens quicker when laparoscopic surgery is performed The patient goes home on the same day or in the morning following the day of surgery, unlike surgery with a cut, which requires 2-5 days of hospitalization.

Hygiene of the operated site and care with stitches and cut

One of the main precautions after gallbladder removal surgery is the care with the operated area, which must be kept clean and dry. The doctor will make recommendations on how to proceed with changing the dressing if necessary, as well as the correct time and on the need to remove the stitches.


Despite the need to abstain from more intense activities, it is not recommended that the patient spend a lot of time sitting or lying down. The ideal is that it take a few times of the day to walk, because the movement of the body helps with their recovery while avoiding respiratory complications that may arise after the surgeries in general.


This is one of the aspects of recovery after gallbladder removal, regardless of the technique used. Both cut and laparoscopic surgery require that the patient maintain a lighter diet for a few days.

Progressively, one eats normally again as before the surgery and it is rarely necessary to have any type of food restriction due to the lack of a gallbladder. Use of any type of food can ruin the surgery or hinder recovery. The surgery team will be able to individualize each patient’s need for food and remove all doubts before surgery, before leaving the hospital and before discharge after surgery.

Return to activities

In the case of laparoscopic gallbladder removal, most patients return to activities in one week. Doing light exercises, walking, cycling, jogging, driving and other daily activities are released when the pain is no longer present and the use of analgesics is discontinued. Generally, those who undergo surgery with cuts need to wait longer, up to three weeks to return to their activities .

In those activities that require greater effort, especially where the abdominal muscles are involved, it is prudent to expect some additional ones for their return. The surgical team will be able to individualize your needs according to your health, surgery and recovery.

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In general, recovery after gallbladder removal surgery is smooth for the vast majority of patients. The risk of complications is small and must be detailed individually by the medical team before the surgical appointment. Following the specialist’s instructions, everything will go very well, but to ensure a quicker return to the normal routine, it is worth talking to the doctor about the possibility of performing laparoscopic surgery.


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